Special election in Massachusetts’ future


The passing of Ted Kennedy has opened a seat in the Senate that has been filled for 47 years. And the family grip goes back to 1947 when JFK first earned the seat (excepting two years after his move to the White House and before Ted’s start in 1962). There is no shortage of candidates who may think they are the one who ought to fill it. The biggest question is whether or not the Kennedys will try to keep the seat in the family, or if it will become a wild and wooly free-for-all.

The special election must be held within 145-160 days following a vacancy, and primaries must precede the general by at least six weeks.

There are two family members being mentioned as possibilities. One is widow Vicki Kennedy, who is believed not to be interested, and nephew Joseph Kennedy II, who served six terms in the House and has not ruled out a return to Washington, a town he left in 1999.

One of Ted Kennedy’s last acts in the days before his death was to try to change the rules so that Gov. Deval Patrick (D) could appoint a successor to fill while a special election is set up. Ironically, that was the rule until 2004 when Democrats – hopeful that they’d be replacing John Kerry after he moved on to the White House – took away appointment power from the governor since at the time the office was filled by Mitt Romney (R).

Patrick has signaled that he would sign a bill restoring gubernatorial appointment power; however, it is unclear if the Massachusetts legislature would take up the matter.

The timetable would suggest an election date in late January, with primaries in early-to-mid December. That’s not much time when a Senate seat is at stake, so developments should come rapidly.

RBR/TVBR observation: The good news for broadcasters in the state will be an unexpected windfall in the political category, and much of it will come during the January doldrums. Several of the potential candidates come with ready-made and well-stocked campaign warchests, or immense personal wealth, or both.

One prominent Massachusetts politician not on the list of those expected to make a play for the seat is Ed Markey (D-MA), who has long made broadcast and communications issues one of his areas of specialization. He has simply amassed too much power in the House to consider making a move.